ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – R.C. Enerson was pleased with his second-place finish in yesterday’s first leg of the Peninsula Pipeline Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, but he was ecstatic this morning after clinching his first victory in round two of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda.
The 16-year-old high school student from nearby New Port Richey, Fla., started on the outside of the front row for this morning’s race, which was held in cool, dry, sunny conditions – in stark contrast to the rain-slickened surface yesterday afternoon. He then grasped the lead on the first lap and never looked back.
Enerson, now in his second season in the Championship class, had won two races in the recent Cooper Tires Winterfest mini-series, but this morning’s performance aboard the No. 7 Team E Racing/Patriot Bank Van Diemen-Mazda represented his first appearance on the top step of the podium in the “main” championship.
Yesterday’s winner Brazilian Victor Franzoni (Afterburner Autosport) started from the pole this morning but was unable either to keep his rival behind at the start or match his pace in the early stages. The first six laps were run under caution following a major pile-up at Turn Four on the first lap which eliminated six of the 18 starters. Enerson put his head down at the restart and quickly established a small but decisive advantage over Franzoni and the remainder of the field.
Enerson eventually took the checkered flag with a 1.428-second margin of victory.
“I feel great. We had a pretty flawless race. I took the lead at the start and I was able to hold my gap a bit,” Enerson said. “A full course yellow came out but I made a good restart and then started pulling a gap and was able to hold it. It was a great race. I was pretty flat out the whole race, pushing all the way.”
Franzoni was later disqualified after his car failed post-race technical inspection.
Jake Eidson, driving for the St. Petersburg-based Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing team, moved from fourth to third on the opening lap and remained there throughout the 21-lap race to secure his first podium finish.
Frenchman Florian Latorre (Belardi Auto Racing) slipped a couple of seconds in arrears of Eidson as the race progressed but held onto fourth (which became third following Franzoni’s disqualification), narrowly ahead of rookie Adrian Starrantino (JAY Motorsports), who rounded out a fine first weekend at this level with his second consecutive top-six finish.
Texan Clark Toppe finished fifth for JDC Motorsports, well clear of Pabst Racing’s Will Owen.